Gushers were one of the first candies released in the early-90s and the explosively fruity snack took the market by storm. I remember being a kid and watching the original Gushers commercials on Cartoon Network. I’d always beg my mom to bring me home some from the store!
Are Gushers vegan, though?
Dietarily speaking, Gushers can be considered vegan. They don’t contain any direct animal by-products like gelatin, milk solids, or honey. However, they do contain refined white sugar and palm oil, which most ethical vegans try to avoid.
Although Gushers don’t really contain anything horrible, they do contain a few questionable ingredients that many vegans prefer to avoid.
In today’s post, I’ll break down why some vegans are okay with Gushers as well as why some vegans are against eating Gushers. Then, I’ll provide you with a full breakdown of all of the ingredients used in Gushers!
Do Gushers Have Gelatin In Them?
The most common non-vegan ingredient in candy and sweets is almost always gelatin. If you’ve ever eaten one of the following snacks, then you’ve undoubtedly had gelatin (probably without even knowing it):
- Gummy bears
- Candy corn
Essentially, it’s a tasteless powder that turns whatever it touches into a gel-like substance. It’s what gives a lot of candy that chewy consistency that people love.
Therefore, most people are surprised to hear that gelatin comes from animal fat. That’s right – to make gelatin, slaughterhouses boil down excess “waste,” such as tendons, bones, and fat.
The mixture is then evaporated and filtered, leaving behind pure gelatin powder, which is very non-vegan.
Thankfully, Gushers do NOT contain any gelatin!
They’re one of the growing number of candy brands that are saying no to animal-derived gelatin and finding other more vegan-friendly alternatives.
Are Gushers Gluten-Free?
Gluten is a special type of protein that’s found in grains, such as wheat, rye, barley, triticale, and certain types of oats. A growing number of people are becoming sensitive to gluten and have developed an allergy to it.
When consumed by gluten-sensitive individuals, it can cause a severe inflammatory reaction that can land them in the hospital or require a lifesaving epi-pen.
Thankfully Gushers are 100% gluten-free! They don’t contain any wheat starch, wheat, grains, or gluten of any kind.
Do Gushers Use Animal Glycerin?
If you look at the ingredients list of Gushers, you’ll notice that they contain glycerin.
This is a common ingredient that’s used in everything from art supplies to food and acts as a binding agent to hold items together. Essentially, it prevents Gushers from being a lump of fruity goo and keeps them looking pretty in candy form.
The only problem is that some glycerin comes from animal fat. For example, Crayola markers (and most markers, for that matter) use animal-derived glycerin. This is why many vegan parents try to seek out vegan art supplies.
That being said, glycerin can also be derived from natural plant oils as well! Thankfully, Gushers uses plant-based glycerine, which makes them a lot more vegan-friendly.
Ingredients In Gushers: Listed
Remember how I mentioned that Gushers were only kind of vegan-friendly? Well, I’m about to show you exactly why in this section.
Below, I’ll break down the exact ingredients in Gushers and explain which ones are okay for dietary vegans as well as those that should be avoided by ethical vegans.
For reference, here’s the shortlist from the back of the packaging:
Now, let’s break them down!
Since the world first discovered sugar, it’s gone crazy for it. In fact, wars have even been fought over it! Like most candy, refined white sugar is the main ingredient in Gushers.
As far as dietary vegans are concerned, sugar is perfectly fine to consume. This is why it’s included in many vegan products and why blog posts across the web will tell you, “Gushers are 100% vegan!”
I’m here to tell you the truth, though, and present both sides of the story.
Ethical vegans don’t have the luxury of looking past all of the by-products used to create the products they consume. And that’s just the problem with refined white sugar.
You see, cane sugar, in its organic form, is 100% vegan. It has a rich molasses flavor and a slight brown coloring. Somewhere along the way, though, bleached sugar became more favorable to the public (as well as more affordable to buy in bulk).
The sugar is typically bleached by filtering it through animal bar char – a type of charcoal made from roasted cow bones. Unfortunately, this is why PETA and ethical vegans avoid consuming white sugar in most cases.
2) Corn Syrup
When sugar isn’t enough, why not add more sugar? That’s just what corn syrup is. In addition to acting as a syrupy binding agent for the candy, it also adds more sugar and makes the candy taste sweeter.
While corn syrup might not be the healthiest food additive, it is a natural, plant-based sweetener that doesn’t involve the use of any animal by-products in its production. Personally, I’d prefer if they just used corn syrup and didn’t use any white sugar at all!
3) Pear Puree Concentrate
The reason why everybody loves Gushers is that juicy “splash” and that taste of real fruit gushing over your tongue. This is thanks to real concentrated pear puree! It’s nice to see a candy that has real fruit as the third-most ingredient.
Pears are known for being one of the sweetest-tasting fruits on the market, so that’s why they’re used instead of another fruit puree.
4) Modified Corn Starch
The next ingredient is modified corn starch. Starch is a type of simple carbohydrate that’s extracted from corn, potatoes, and other starchy vegetables.
In food production, it’s often used to help bind ingredients together and prevent food items from sticking to each other. In this case, the modified corn starch does both.
Corn starch is a long shot from healthy, but it is 100% plant-based and is vegan. In small amounts, it won’t do you any harm.
Fructose is a special type of sugar that’s derived from fruit. If you’ve ever had a glass of orange juice or apple juice, the naturally-occurring fructose in the juice is what makes it taste so sweet.
Since the whole point of Gushers is to make them taste like a sweet, juicy, fruity snack, it makes sense that they’d have a bit of added Fructose!
Like corn syrup, fructose is a plant-based sweetener and is completely safe for vegans to consume.
Maltodextrin is a type of sugar that’s commonly used in vegan mass builders. It’s basically a simple sugar/carbohydrate that’s readily absorbed by the body and can trigger it to start storing fat.
In large amounts, it can be very unhealthy. However, in small amounts, it can turn a wet substance (such as sticky fruit gel) into a dry substance.
This is how it’s used in the case of Gushers. When added to the candy, it keeps the Gushers dry until you put them in your mouth, where the candy is exposed to heat and moisture, reverting back into its gooey gel form.
Check out this video, explaining the process:
Maltodextrin is typically extracted from tapioca, which makes it plant-based and vegan-friendly!
7) Palm Oil
The second questionable ingredient used in Gushers is palm oil. This is another ingredient that dietary and ethical vegans disagree on.
Technically speaking, palm oil is a plant-based oil that’s extracted from the fruit of palm trees. As far as dietary vegans are concerned, palm oil is okay to consume in food.
However, it’s not the oil itself, but rather the industry behind palm oil that’s to blame for the oil’s controversial status. The palm oil industry is incredibly destructive to rainforests, indigenous tribes, and endangered animals residing within the rainforest.
The planetary harm caused by the palm oil industry is the reason why ethical vegans avoid palm oil-containing products.
8) Natural Flavors
Aside from the pear concentrate puree used in Gushers, they also contain a number of other natural flavors, so that each different color of Gushers has a slightly different taste.
The most prominent natural flavoring is concentrated grape juice, which is 100% vegan. The other flavors are natural flavors which are chemically extracted from various fruits.
Candy wouldn’t be candy without a few preservatives to keep it shelf-stable. This is an unavoidable part of buying processed foods. All of the preservatives used are vegan, though.
10) Food Coloring
Gushers use a variety of different food colorings. Thankfully, all of the food colorings is vegan-safe and red 40 is used in place of animal-derived carmine coloring.
Conclusion – Are Gushers Vegan-Friendly?
If you’re a simple dietary vegan, then Gushers can be considered vegan. However, if you’re an ethical vegan who actively avoids refined sugar and palm oil, then you’ll probably want to stay away from Gushers.
If you’re looking for a great vegan-friendly sweet treat, then be sure to check out my list of the best vegan cookie brands next!